The hitters coming off the bench for Texas look really rusty. Most of them haven't had much action lately, and that's hurting the Rangers so far in the World Series.
Craig Gentry and Esteban German in Game 1. Yorvit Torrealba and German in Game 2. Swinging at balls in the dirt, taking pitches down the middle _ their at-bats have been pretty ugly.
Rangers manager Ron Washington has sent four pinch hitters to the plate against Cardinals lefty Marc Rzepczynski. All right-handed batters. Rzepczynski has retired each one, three on strikeouts.
Heading to the ninth, Cardinals lead 1-0. Top of the lineup due up for Texas against fireballing closer Jason Motte.
We've seen this before.
Allen Craig came through against Alexi Ogando again, delivering a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning that gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead in Game 2 on Thursday night.
Jaime Garcia pitched a brilliant game for the Cardinals, striking out seven through seven innings in a scoreless duel with Texas starter Colby Lewis.
But when Garcia's spot came up in the bottom of the seventh, the Cardinals had runners at first and third with two outs. So manager Tony La Russa pulled Garcia for Craig, and Washington went to Ogando.
Same matchup as Game 1, when Craig's pinch-hit single to right off Ogando broke a tie and sent the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory.
It was practically a replay in Game 2. Craig took a low-outside fastball and served it into right field for the go-ahead hit.
Garcia was 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA in three postseason starts before Thursday night. But the Rangers had never faced him before, and he had them off balance all night.
David Freese extended his postseason hitting streak to 12 games with a seventh-inning single.
Wow, what a play by Elvis Andrus!
St. Louis had runners at first and second in the fifth inning when Rafael Furcal hit a one-hop smash up the middle. Andrus grabbed it with a quick dive to his left and flipped the ball with his glove _ from the outfield grass _ to second base for a forceout.
Ian Kinsler had Furcal shaded to pull, so it took the Rangers' second baseman a while to get to the bag. Andrus led him perfectly, lofting the ball so Kinsler had time to run through it and step on second just ahead of the slide by Garcia.
It was sort of like a quarterback leading his tailback on an option pitch. Perfect.
A really difficult play. Andrus almost made it look easy. That's why he's one of the most talented shortstops in the majors.
Garcia got out of the sixth with a double-play ball. Both teams putting on a defensive clinic in a fast-paced game. Scoreless through six innings.
Lewis nearly cracked a bit in the fifth. He got away with a very hittable 2-0 pitch to Freese, then gave up a single to No. 8 batter Nick Punto on an 0-2 delivery and walked Garcia.
Lewis came back in the sixth with a 1-2-3 inning against the 2-3-4 hitters.
Texas put runners on first and third with two outs in the fourth inning, but Garcia got out of it. He fell behind 3-1 on Adrian Beltre, then came back to get a swinging strikeout.
Beltre pulled a grounder foul past third base and the ball nicked Kinsler on the shoulder. After hitting the deck, Kinsler got up and flashed a smile at Beltre, brushing off his shoulder as if to say, "That was nothing."
By the way, Joe Buck sure likes to celebrate his fellow Fox broadcasters, Tim McCarver and Ken Rosenthal, on the air. Compliments from Buck flying all over the booth during the fourth inning.
Nothing like a little self-promotion.
Andrus, really slick with the glove, started a beautiful double play to end the bottom of the fourth.
The starting pitchers looked real sharp early in Game 2.
Garcia broke two or three bats through the first two innings and retired his first nine batters. He sawed off Josh Hamilton badly in the first.
Hamilton appears pretty uncomfortable with that groin injury. He's really having a hard time finding his swing.
The 25-year-old Garcia shows no fear, attacking Texas' right-handed sluggers on both sides of the plate.
One of the reasons Garcia got this start is because he has been better at home than on the road this season. He sure looks poised at Busch Stadium so far in his first World Series start. But sometimes when he starts to fade, it happens quickly.
Lewis also is in control, with the exception of a second-inning walk to Matt Holliday and a two-out double by Furcal in the third.
Lewis is not a big name, but he's been awfully effective for Texas in the postseason the past two years, going 4-1 with a 2.37 ERA in six starts.
No Yankees, no Phillies, no Red Sox.
Still, there was plenty of interesting strategy to digest in the World Series opener between Texas and St. Louis, which stayed close until the end. Tell that to TV viewers.
Ratings for Game 1 were down slightly from last year _ when the average number matched a record low.
The Cardinals' 3-2 win Wednesday night on Fox earned an 8.7 rating and 14 share. That was down 2 percent from the 8.9/15 for Game 1 in 2010 between the Rangers and the Giants, with San Francisco a bigger market than St. Louis.
Local viewership was strong. Fox said the rating in St. Louis was a 47.3/66, the highest for a local market for Game 1 since Boston in 2007. Dallas averaged a 34.2/51, up slightly from last year.
St. Louis' victory was the 11th one-run game in the postseason this year, one shy of the record set in 1995, 1997 and 2003.
What was the buzz after Game 1?
La Russa outmanaged Washington, that's what.
The Cardinals' skipper used the perfect mix of relievers to keep Texas off the scoreboard for the final three innings of Wednesday night's World Series opener. And he lifted ace Chris Carpenter at just the right time, getting the pinch-hit single from Craig that put St. Louis ahead for good, 3-2.
When Washington needed a big hit off the bench, he turned to German rather than Torrealba. German, who hadn't batted in 22 days, struck out to end the seventh inning, and the Texas offense was never heard from again.
Well, Washington tinkered a bit for Game 2. He changed his starting lineup, and that could put him in a better position to counter La Russa late in the game.
Rangers speedster Gentry got the start in center field tonight, batting eighth against Garcia. An ailing Hamilton shifted from center field to left, putting David Murphy on the bench.
Murphy is a quality left-handed hitter with plenty of experience in a part-time role. He has tough at-bats with runners on base and would be a good option as a pinch-hitter, especially against those right-handers in the St. Louis bullpen who have been so effective: Octavio Dotel, Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn and Jason Motte.
"I don't think I can win a chess game against Tony," Washington said before Game 2. "National League is a different type of game. There's all kinds of moving parts, and once again, it just comes down to the players (executing) in whatever position you put them in, and last night, Craig executed and we didn't.
"I don't have the experienced pinch hitters that a National League team has because they do it so often. I've got nine guys that are healthy, that have gotten us to this point, and if those nine guys are healthy, usually during the course of our season, our extra guys get work when we want to give them rest. So they don't get a whole lot of pinch-hitting opportunity. But I do trust them, and I do believe in some situations certain guys can deliver for you. Last night ours didn't deliver. We move on," he said.
Washington threw batting practice himself to Hamilton, who hasn't homered in the postseason. Last year's AL MVP went 0 for 4 in Game 1 and said his lingering groin injury is getting a bit worse.
If this were the regular season, he says he would probably be on the disabled list right now.
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